Gombi Zor
(VeDaKi Records, Amsterdam)

CD cover If there is actually something you can call "world music" (as opposed to American music, Bulgarian music, etc…), then VeDaKi offer a delicious vision of what it might be. The band formerly known as Vershki Da Koreshki is a true multi-national cooperation, a Netherlands based band with roots and fronds scattered across the globe.

The driving force behind the music is Alexei Levin, a Russian keyboard and accordion player now living in Amsterdam. He is a jazz musician with an improvisational zeal and a broad interest in the world's music. As a self-described "victim of the Soviet music education system" he escaped to The Netherlands and became part of the improvisational music scene in Amsterdam, as well as becoming a outside edge member of the theater and dance communities there.

Russian bassist Vladimir Volkov comes from St Petersburg, where he works with the infamous horn player V.Gayvoronsky as the Leningrad Duo and has traveled the world playing both jazz and Baroque music. The other founding member of the group is Mola Sylla, a Senegalese multi-instrumentalist who landed in Amsterdam in 1987 with his band Senemali. He found himself in the swarm of the new music scene, teaming up as part of the Vershki gang in 1986 with Levin, Volkov and Tuvan singer Kaigal-Ool Khovalyg (no longer with the group) to begin their experiment in improvised world music, a project that yielded two albums of remarkable and often humorous music that sliced, diced and slammed together throat singing, mbalax, jazz and other odd companions.

The newly revamped VeDaKi has replaced the Tuvan groove with the tablas and vocals of Sandip Bhattacharya of Benares, India, an artist of both classical roots (he works regularly with , G.S. Sachdev and Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia) and jazz-fusion inclinations. Their guest artists on Gombi Zor are vocalist and instrumentalist Sergey Starostin of the Moscow Art Trio and Saami (Lapland) singer Marie Boine, who both add small but significant tones to the proceedings.

The name is also their statement of purpose: Vershki (above the ground/ top) and Koreshki (below the ground/ root) is the name of a Russian fairy tale, a fitting connection for this band. Their works are totally improvised (all songs are credited to the entire group) with a dedication to American and European jazz, but the folky spirit of their melodic and rhythmic inspirations prevails throughout. They play music in childlike amazement at the connections and divisions their varied backgrounds create. Nothing on this album is recognizably Russian, Senegalese or Indian. It is an amalgam, and as such it is only valuable once it is molded to its own purpose. It is a driving trance music; incessant in its rhythms, elusive in its melodic intent. VeDaKi sees the future of jazz, an international cooperative of musicians who meet on common emotional ground. While they expose their roots in the musical themes they start with, it is the top that matters, the now of musicians lost in their own creative world. - Cliff Furnald

Audio © 1999 Vedaki, used by permission

Available at cdRoots

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